Welcome to Asunder, and a world that has received the news of what transpired in Kirkwall and is, understandably, none to...moreTime to write another review.
Welcome to Asunder, and a world that has received the news of what transpired in Kirkwall and is, understandably, none too happy about it. As you may recall, in Dragon Age 2, our lovable psychopathic companion known as Anders decided it might be a good idea to stuff some TNT in the Chantry because "fireworks are cool." The templars, however, didn't get the joke and decided to put everyone through the blade.
If I'd had my way, the Qunari would be ruling Kirkwall now.
Anyway, this event has served to rile up the mages throughout Thedas and put the templars on high alert in case anyone tries for a repeat. The mages, as usual, demand more freedom, even if some of them don't know what that is, while the templars would be more than happy to tighten the noose all the way to the Maker. Between them stands the Chantry and Divine Justinia V who has her own agenda to try and bridge the gap between the two and is at least ten times more proactive than Elthina, thank the Maker!
In this volatile situation, Wynne, one of the Warden's companions from Dragon Age: Origins, recruits mages Rhys and Adrian, along with a reluctant templar by the name of Evangeline, to find a Tranquil that may or may not have found a way to undo the Rite of Tranquility. As if the templars didn't have enough on their plates already.
First, let's talk about the Templar v Mage conflict. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the author actually addressed this subject quite skillfully. Yes, you do have the expected zealots on both sides but, and this is the important bit, you can empathize with them even if you don't necessarily sympathize.
Lord Seeker Lambert is dead set against giving the mages more freedoms but he makes his case to Evangeline and it's a good one. He tried to help them initially and got burnt for it by the same people he was trying to help. To be sure, I felt that, in his own way, he was trying to prevent events coming to a head. Naturally, within the constraints of his own beliefs.
On the part of the mages, Adrian is an easy character to hate though perhaps hate is too strong a word. Adrian is Lambert's mirror, in the sense that she is a zealot as well, a strong advocate for the mages' freedom and she's willing to do anything to achieve that goal no matter the cost. Indeed, she comes across as very manipulative and eager to forego the only friend she has for the sake of "the cause." So even if I didn't particularly like her as a person I can understand where she's coming from because she's giving voice to a group of mages that feel the same way.
To counterbalance these characters we have Evangeline, the templar, and Rhys, the mage. Initially, their views resemble those of Lambert and Adrian somewhat but, as the story progresses, they realize that things are not quite so black and white and they acknowledge something needs to change if war is to be averted.
Personally, I think I liked Evangeline more than Rhys, even though I liked them both. Rhys' character, while very perceptive, isn't quite sure what he believes in until, perhaps, the very end of Asunder. I suppose it's understandable given how both Adrian and Wynne try to win him over to the Libertarians and the Aequitarians respectively. His occasional outbursts, which he blames on his temper, only seem to be there in order to drive the plot. Evangeline, on the other hand, is a character who knows who she is (if that makes any sense). She sincerely believes in what the Templar Order stands for and, confronted by the reality that its purpose has been corrupted through time, she forges her own path, always clinging to that core belief.
Nonetheless, there are a few things that disappointed me somewhat.
First of all, I truly wanted to know more about Pharamond's research. I understand nobody really cared about that beyond the Divine, but I was intrigued. There seemed to be a connection to what happened in Dragon Age 2 when Anders tried to rescue Karl. Will it play a part in Inquisition? I hope so.
Second, the attempt on the Divine. Unless I missed something, it is never explained how a mage managed to get so close to the Divine. It is hinted at that he could have been helped by the templars so they'd have an excuse to beat the crap out of some mages but the issue of how he got there is never resolved. I suppose in the large scheme of things it matters little but I would've liked to know nonetheless.
Finally, and this really took me by surprise, there's the small matter of what transpires between Evangeline and Arnaud when Wynne and company exit Adamant fortress with Pharomond in tow. Considering Lambert had given Evangeline strict instructions to ensure Pharomond's demise (and possibly everyone else's), and seeing as he didn't trust her enough that he sent Arnaud with a bunch of templars, I honestly expected a fight to ensue. Truly, it could not have gone any other way and I fail to see how it did. Arnaud wasn't exactly reasonable throughout the story and he certainly shared in the Lord Seeker's views so it would have made more sense if he'd decided to kill Evangeline and the mages rather than let them go. This was probably the only moment where I felt the author had done something out of character.
Asunder ends with a conclave where the mages decide what's to become of them. Like I said before, Rhys' character comes together at this point and, consequently, it's a shame we don't get to read more of the aftermath of said meeting. For the templars' part, they decide they've had enough of the Chantry's platitudes and break apart together with the Seekers.
War is coming, there's no doubt about that. Will we read some more of it before Inquisition or will it become Inquisition? Only time will tell. For now though, if you're a fan of Dragon Age, there's no doubt in my mind you should read this book. This is Dragon Age 2 as it should've been: a nuanced and balanced approach to the conflict between templars and mages with strong, relatable, characters whose actions make sense within the narrative.
After a somewhat discouraging introduction the book turned out to be a pretty good read.
"The Palace Job" tells the story of a former...more**spoiler alert**
After a somewhat discouraging introduction the book turned out to be a pretty good read.
"The Palace Job" tells the story of a former scout captain named Loch who has been falsely imprisoned by her former colonel-now-Archvoyant Silestin. Upon breaking out from jail with fellow soldier Kail, she gathers a most unusual and unexpected gang to put her plan into motion: she's going to break into the most secure vault in the whole of the Republic and steal from the man who betrayed her.
Like I said before, the intro drags a bit in terms of the number of characters introduced and the special words used to describe this new universe that the author has created. Very early on you'll be faced with the prospect of trying to figure out who the Learned and the Skilled are, how the Voyant are different from those, what role the Justicars play in all this, etc. Furthermore, it begins with a rather lengthy description of the prison itself. As a writer and reader I heavily prefer shorter descriptions with more emphasis on dialogue to draw the reader in. The combination of the above factors conspired to slow down my reading.
After our intrepid characters escape from their prison, it's time to introduce the remaining members of the soon-to-be-formed gang. I liked some stories better than others but I was most curious with the introduction of Justicar Pyvic, who has been charged with recapturing the escaped convicts. Unfortunately, Pyvic's character suffers from something that affects the story altogether and that is the titular character of Loch.
I enjoy it when the good guys triumph over the bad guys as much as anyone but Loch seems to do so every single time. She seems to suffer from writer omniscience, always being a step, often several, ahead of every other character in the story. Everyone always plays into her designs and she always has a counterplan for every plan devised by her would-be enemies. The only time when things seem to go wrong is when Pyvic and Silestin decide to crash the party at her uncle's. Since she also suffers from plot armour (shared with everyone in her gang), however, we know she'll come out of any encounter unscathed.
However, Loch's omniscience is not entirely to blame for Pyvic's underdeveloped character. Initially we're treated to scenes with Pyvic searching for his targets but this ends as soon as we reach Heaven's Spire. Once there Pyvic is mostly relegated to scenes where: a) he trades words with Loch; or b) he trades words with Silestin. He mentions he needs to "hunt" but we read nothing on the hunt to recapture Loch and Kail. It might as well have never existed. This is understandable considering the author needs to dedicate some time to each member of Loch's gang as well as Silestin's own entourage but it is still disappointing. I can't shake the feeling that Pyvic is basically used as a prop. It didn't help that he was entirely removed from the showdown with Silestin incredibly easily.
Perhaps another problem is that "The Palace Job" attempts to tell one too many stories and somehow interconnect them all at the same time. This is most evident when the author sneaks in the legend of the Champions of Dawn and Dusk (again something that Loch figures out since day one). While he tries to dismiss this prophecy in the guise of the wizard Hessler it's almost impossible not to connect the dots and see who it refers to. It's a story that resolves itself neatly but was is really necessary? To my mind, it wasn't.
Finally, "then darkness took him" doesn't really take anyone of note, certainly none of the gang. You'll be treated to numerous scenes of people "dying" only to find out they didn't. I feel conflicted about this. On the one hand I prefer my heroes alive and kicking but it also feels cheap if none but the bad guys can die. Off the top of my head I count at least four instances where darkness should have taken our heroes in some way other than unconsciousness and two where we have magical resurrections.
Having said all this, how come I still like this book? Well, the banter between the characters is easily its strongest point and I probably enjoyed the short exchanges between Pyvic and Loch, predator and prey (or the other way around?), the most. Hessler is also another character I liked but I've been partial to wizards since Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. And, naturally, there's the element of planning a heist that has a particular allure as Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen have demonstrated. Putting together a ragtag team to beat insurmountable odds is always an attractive premise in and of itself.
In summation, I liked this book. It took a while to get going and, yes, it can stretch credibility at times what with Loch's writer omniscience and every character in the gang having plot armour but that's okay because this was a highly entertaining book that I simply couldn't put down and, in the end, that's all that matters, isn't it?
As for the rating, it's probably closer to a 3.5 but I'm feeling generous.(less)
This is not an easy book to review. The subject matter is definitely fascinating. The author takes us on a trip through almost every legendary land/pl...moreThis is not an easy book to review. The subject matter is definitely fascinating. The author takes us on a trip through almost every legendary land/place imaginable, from the many variations of Atlantis, through Thule, Mu, the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, the myth of the Sangraal and the knights of Arthur's Court; he even talks at length about Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" and the sources it's based upon.
But what is this book about? Does he propose theories as to where we can find these fabled lands? Not at all. His intent, and it is very welcome, is to share how these myths have evolved through time and how different authors have altered the location of these lands and, at times, the content of the legends themselves; not to mention some lands are created based upon other myths. Umberto Eco pretends to open our eyes and minds with logic, fact, and wit, and I daresay he succeeds.
The author also wins extra points from me for including extracts of the works he analyzes and criticizes at the end of each chapter so that the reader can, well, read and judge for himself. You'll be able to read anything from Marco Polo to Jules Verne.
This books definitely deserves a space in your bookshelf.(less)
A long time ago when I was in highschool, my history teacher would tell us that we should check our "facts" with at least three different sources to c...moreA long time ago when I was in highschool, my history teacher would tell us that we should check our "facts" with at least three different sources to consider them facts. Or was it some other teacher? Anyway, the point was clear enough, don't take anything at face value until you've researched it thoroughly. The problem nowadays is that you can easily find three sources that will agree on something, only to find other three sources that will contradict that something, and then find yet another three sources that don't agree with any of those somethings.
See where I'm getting at? Who do we believe has gotten history right when everyone has its own theories and can support them by "evidence" we'll be hard pressed to study ourselves? Ancient history seems to be, to my mind, part science and part faith. We have tools at our disposal to help us discover the ancient history of our world but, ultimately, everything is filtered by the lens of the historian, or the archaeologist, or the linguist, etc. von Däniken is, by no means, the exception to the rule and seeks to convince the reader of the truth of his hypothesis, basically, that aliens visited our planet and created the human race, starting us on our technological evolution.
To his credit, he tells an interesting story that lures the reader in. After all, humanity has always been drawn into mysteries and puzzles. Truth be told, we sometimes find the puzzle more interesting than the solution itself. Who wouldn't rather believe that the "chariots of the gods" were actually spaceships than something conjured up in the mind of a very imaginative writer? Thus, while most historians dismiss the Greek myths as little more than fiction, von Däniken argues they're truer than most would admit. Among his many arguments, he suggests that some of them hold too many details to be considered fiction (Tolkien would probably disagree) and that they wouldn't have been put into writing unless they were true (he makes this argument in the case of those written on tablets due to the difficulty of the task involved). He also highlights things like the distances between the places of faith in ancient Greece, but he doesn't bother to include a map to better emphasize his point. Likewise, when he talks about Atlantis he claims many maps have been made out of Plato's description but he doesn't produce a single one. This is not to say his claims are invalid, but it was disappointing that he couldn't be bothered to be more graphic.
During his exposition he mentions things like the Antikythera mechanism, an impressive piece of technology in and of itself, that he claims could not have been made given the knowledge at the time. Considering the many technological geniuses humanity has spawned throughout history (Leonardo comes to mind), I'd say that's a bold statement to make. There have always been men throughout history ahead of their time and the Antikythera mechanism could simply be a product of these men and their ingenuity.
Throughout the book he denounces how historians and archaeologists alike dismiss any data that doesn't fit their theory or the "accepted view of history." This is true of people in general, we all see what we want to see, von Däniken included. There's one chapter in which he explains at length how this theory that Troy and Atlantis are one and the same is nothing more than wishful thinking and how the facts from Plato's tale are chosen and dismissed according to this view. His opinion is that, either Plato's tale of Atlantis is 100% fiction or 100% true, a persuasive enough logic if our minds could only think in binary terms.
This is, in essence, the basis of his arguments, that ancient civilizations recorded these myths not as tales of fiction but as statements of fact, describing them the best they could within the limits of their language and obscured somewhat by the passing of the ages. It's an alluring concept no doubt and the basis for my three-star rating. von Däniken knows how to tell a story, be it true or false, and as such it's pretty good. Does it prove his hypothesis right? Not by a long shot.
If anything, von Däniken's book should serve to remind us that the history of our planet is a constant source of wonder and that there are many mysteries waiting to be solved, whether aliens are involved or not.(less)
Having read a lot of negative reviews on the second Event book I was prepared to be thoroughly disappointed. At one point I consider...more**spoiler alert**
Having read a lot of negative reviews on the second Event book I was prepared to be thoroughly disappointed. At one point I considered not even reading it, but then I wouldn't be able to judge for myself, would I?
It takes a while to get going, that's for sure. It has to first set the background by introducing two characters from the distant past and the legend of "El Dorado." Then it moves on to the present where the Event Group makes a discovery that is never brought up again for the rest of the book. I found it odd at first but decided it's just part of what the Event Group does.
Are the characters one-dimensional? I'd say that's a fair assessment. Did I find myself rooting for Colonel Farbeaux at times? Certainly. None of these issues, however, detracted from my enjoyment of the adventure. "Legend" has elements from Indiana Jones, a couple of Jules Verne's stories, and one particular element that reminded me of the movie, "The Core." I think there's something else at the back of my mind, but I can't pinpoint it.
Anyway, it's a tale of discovering a new world within our own and that's always a mystery worthy of an adventure. I did find some elements were superfluous, such as the President's daughter or the Frenchman's wife. Sure, maybe Kelly factored in on the President's decisions but I think he would've pushed just as hard if she hadn't been a part of the expedition, not that she contributes much anyway. Danielle's presence is also unnecessary, having infiltrated the Event Group's expedition... to what end? I still don't know. It seems she was only placed there and then to spur Farbeaux into a stupid quest for misplaced revenge in the books to come.
Another detail I'd like to point out is Collins' apparent omniscience. He seems to know everything, what sometimes raises a few questions. For instance, apparently he knew Danielle was a plant. What did he do about it? Nothing at all. Why did he bring her along then? Was he planning to use her as leverage or something? No idea.
I was also a bit unsatisfied with the author's answer as to why the Incas decided to mine the plutonium. "Because it was hot" seems to me to be a most disappointing, if not outright ridiculous, reason. The answer is a bit more elaborate than that, to be fair, but I think my summation isn't that far off the mark either.
It was an entertaining adventure, nothing more, nothing less.(less)
Event. A different approach on the tale of Roswell. It has some elements that I recognized from movies like Godzilla, like the part where the French t...moreEvent. A different approach on the tale of Roswell. It has some elements that I recognized from movies like Godzilla, like the part where the French team goes after the monster while at the same time the US Army is doing its best to neutralize the threat. When they discover the way to strip the creatures of their armor it also reminded me of of Star Wars and the Yuuzhan Vong.
I found it a bit slow at the beginning, at least compared to the more action-paced Area 51 stories. I would say Event is an okay to good start to the franchise but it didn't quite ensnare me as much as Area 51 did. I know it's an unfair comparison but there are certain parallels between the stories after all (secret organizations, UFOs, military, etc.). Having said that, it's probably (and I'd like to emphasize that since I'm not a military expert) a bit more faithful in the military department.
Like I said, a good start but it has to do better if it wants me to read through the entire series.(less)
I have neglected my reviews of the previous instalments, something I'll have to remedy at some point. I'd do it now but everything h...more**spoiler alert**
I have neglected my reviews of the previous instalments, something I'll have to remedy at some point. I'd do it now but everything has blurred into a single tale called "Area 51." I do remember "The Truth" the most, probably because it was more cheerful than its predecessors. Of course, winning is considered "cheerful" in most parts of the world.
The first three books are probably the best, despite the fact that by the third book there were lots of questions and very few answers. Everything started to go downhill for our heroes, and for me, from Book 4 onwards. The heroes had had it easy up till now, thinking they'd beat the bad guys in no time. Well, the Easter Island Guardian disagreed and for the next four books keeps thwarting every attempt made to destroy the island. The problem is that every time Turcotte tries something different you expect to succeed, if only marginally but no, they just fail, again and again and again. It also unnerved me somewhat the amount of special ops soldiers that get killed as the story progresses. The equation is simple: Turcotte needs a team, a team gets shipped, they go someplace, only Turcotte survives. Geez, not even one survivor apart from Turcotte?
Another thing that angered me was that at every turn the author introduces some new traitor or organization that will put our characters in a tight spot. Oh, X wants to go with our heroes to find Y? X is a bad guy. Works like a charm 99% of the time.
"The Truth" left me with some questions, either because the author had created so many riddles he didn't know how to solve or because I read the series like lightning, probably a bit of both. For instance, who is Turcotte then? Is he a clone of Duncan's husband like it's hinted at? It would make sense then when Duncan apologizes to him, but I don't think it's explained. What happened to the remaining STAAR operatives? Did Lexina die? Why was Majic-12 controlled by the "Temiltepec" (which apparently was actually found in Teotihuacan if memory serves) Guardian? If neither side wanted to activate the ship, then why did the Guardian force Gulick to do so?
Like I said, some questions are still left unanswered, but the heroes regain their footing with "The Truth" and it's a neat end to the series leaving the reader wanting for more. I'd love to see Mike Turcotte as the head of a new Area 51.
Time will tell if this series is meant to continue. I'll probably read it again, more slowly this time to see if there's anything important I missed.(less)
**spoiler alert** The Area 51 series continues growing strong. Let's do a recap of the previous chapter, shall we?
In Book 1, it's discovered that a r...more**spoiler alert** The Area 51 series continues growing strong. Let's do a recap of the previous chapter, shall we?
In Book 1, it's discovered that a race of aliens established an outpost on Earth some ten thousand years ago and left some of their technology behind, including several spacecraft currently in possession of the secret military facility known as Area 51. Under the command of General Gullick, a timetable is devised to test the largest of these spacecraft known as the mothership. But an archaeology professor by the name of Peter Nabinger discovers a message inside the pyramid of Keops warning against using the mothership. Together with Spec-Ops Captain Mike Turcotte, reporter Kelly Reynolds, german physicist Werner von Seeckt, and Presidential Science Advisor Lisa Duncan, they race against time to put an end to the test.
In so doing they discover an ancient alien computer left behind by the civilization known as the Airlia that aids them in their quest. They also learn that the Airlia are split into two sides and, apparently, the computer's side (Aspasia's) is pro-humanity. At the same time, and as the book's epilogue, this computer known as the Guardian sends a message to the stars.
Thus we get to Book 2 and the obvious reply to the Guardian's message. Apparently, Aspasia and their band had hitched it to Mars and had been in stasis ever since, but now they're coming back in peace... or so some people think. Others, which include our titular heroes Mike Turcotte and Lisa Duncan are not so convinced.
The book introduces another secret organisation known as STAAR. I must admit I cringed at first at the introduction of yet another super-powerful secret organisation. However, I acquiesced as it's later explained why this organisation was set up, essentially, to oversee first contact with the alien species that had left this technology should they ever reappear. Since it was under strict orders to act only upon first contact it's understandable how the secret was kept for so long. There's some suggestion that the organisation may actually be the Airlian rebels that were left behind on Earth and I tend to agree. At this time, my thoughts are that STAAR probably started out as an all-human organisation and eventually was infiltrated by the Airlia.
The book raises a lot of questions that are left unexplained but, fortunately, the writer has the good sense to have Turcotte's character lay them all out in the open for us during his succint conversation with STAAR's leader inside the bouncer, when he's asked to choose which side he supports: Aspasia's or the rebels', known as Artad's. He has the good sense to choose none considering both sides have given him reverse stories. I also enjoyed the showdown in hangar two between Turcotte, Duncan, and the two STAAR operatives.
However, there are a few details that need to be addressed. For instance, why would Turcotte order the bombardment of Easter Island if he knows from the previous book that it's shielded? How did Kelly become influenced by the Easter Island Guardian? Unless I missed something, I thought physical contact was needed for a connection to be established. Who does Terra-lei answer to? How does von Seeckt so quickly make the jump between STAAR and the Airlia? Does he know something we don't?
It's a pity Nabinger was killed but I predict that that notebook he was scribbling on before his death will probably resurface at a later date. Naturally, the mothership will also have to be recovered since it didn't blow up. And I kind of expect Turcotte to be made a General after the stunts he pulled, or at the very least a Colonel. I also imagine someone will come up with a way to neutralize the Easter Island Guardian.
A strong opening to the series. We follow the stories of several characters in a style that reminds me of Tom Clancy's excellent, "Red Storm Rising,"...moreA strong opening to the series. We follow the stories of several characters in a style that reminds me of Tom Clancy's excellent, "Red Storm Rising," as their lives are drawn together by an event taking place in the secret military complex known as Area 51.
The quick pacing of the story, coupled with its intriguing premise, doesn't leave room for boredom. My one regret is that the book, perhaps, draws to a close rather too quickly and it's highly doubtful that, at the end of the day, the truth would be revealed to the public, at least not right away and not in one dose. However, it'll be interesting to see how the writer depicts public outcry in following instalments.
**spoiler alert** Average. Predictable ending where the hero isn't the guy you've been rooting for for five books. It turns out that the "bad" guy is...more**spoiler alert** Average. Predictable ending where the hero isn't the guy you've been rooting for for five books. It turns out that the "bad" guy is actually the hero because he wasn't really that bad to begin with, merely misunderstood and tricked into becoming evil. And, by the way, let's introduce the next series of books, shall we?
Not a bad way to start a series. It's no Harry Potter, certainly, but neither should it try to be. It's a light read and a fun way to learn something...moreNot a bad way to start a series. It's no Harry Potter, certainly, but neither should it try to be. It's a light read and a fun way to learn something about Greek mythology in the process. It's a pity the movie wasn't more faithful to the source material but I can see the difficulties of pulling it off on the big screen. Looking forward to Book 2.(less)